Somaliland, Somalia, and Somali Week Festival

Somaliland elections in 2012

 “Self-declared independent state of Somaliland is gearing towards its third presidential election on November 13 in which 704, 089 registered voters are expected to elect a new president,” writes Ismail Akwei, Africa News, 18 October 2017.

Akwei discusses the three candidates to replace Somaliland’s 4th president, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, who is not running for a second seven-year term:

  • Muse Bihi Abdi – KULMIYE (Peace, Unity and Development) Party
  • Faisal Ali Warabe – UCID (Justice and Welfare) Party
  • Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro of Waddani (National) Party

He states that after the first-ever presidential debate, which will be televised to c. 4 million viewers, campaigning for the election runs from Saturday 21 October to 10 November, with each party scheduled for a different day to avoid clashes.   Iris-recognition biometric voter registration will be used for the first time in these elections (which were postponed from March due to drought conditions).

Somaliland, which has a population of c. 4 million, declared its independence from Somalia 26 years ago, on 18 May 1991.  It has not been recognised as a sovereign state internationally, rather as ‘the autonomous region of Somalia’.  Although it has its own currency, legal system, and army, its diplomatic isolation has meant it has been unable to access World Bank or International Monetary Fund loans.  The forthcoming elections, however, are being supported by an EU joint mission and other international electoral observers.

In concluding, Akwei notes:

“The territory has been experiencing stability and economic prosperity. It has been influential in the fight against piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa.”

An earlier study led by Laura Hammond (now Reader in Development Studies at SOAS) and carried out for the Danish Demining Group (DDG), reported in November 2013,  ‘A perceived improvement in safety, security and wellbeing in Somaliland.’

Somali, on the other hand, has just experienced the latest violence, a devastating truck bomb explosion on 14 October in Mogadishu (covered in the media, including in an article by Laura Hammond:  ‘Deadly explosion in Somali capital Mogadishu brings shock, outrage, and resilience’, 17 October 2017, The Conversation:

“Yet amid the horror stories of suffering and loss, small glimmers of hope and resilience have emerged. One of the strongest and most immediate sources of support has been the Somali diaspora,” writes Hammond.

On Monday 23 October, SOAS Somali Society is planning a vigil at SOAS to honour and remember the victims of the Mogadishu attack. (#IAMMOGADISHU)

Whilst in London, the resilience of the Somali diaspora and friends is clear:   Somali Week Festival – Home and Displacement, which runs from 20-29 October in venues across central London:

Further information

Ismail Akwei
‘Somaliland Election Campaign Kicks Off with first ever Presidential Debate’, Africa News, 18 October 2017.

Laura Hammond

Call for working papers on the drivers of instability, migration and displacement in the greater Horn of Africa:

‘Somalis face stark choice after US banks shut down cash transfer operators’, 20 February 2015, The Guardian:

Duncan Green

Somaliland v. Somalia, 19 February 2014, Oxfamblogs

Alexis Okeowo

Where is the empathy for Somalia? 17 October 2017, The New Yorker

African Union Mission in Somalia

Brief background

Somalia, which lies by the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, is in the Horn of Africa. It borders Djibouti (in the northwest) Ethiopia (in the west), and Kenya in the southwest.

After independence in 1969, the Somali Democratic Republic was formed.  It collapsed in 1991 and from the ensuing civil war, Somalia emerged ‘a failed state’.  It was at this point that Somaliland and Puntland – in the Northwest and North respectively – became ‘autonomous regions’, the former a separatist one.

In 2004 the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by the African Union Mission to Somalia, re-established military and other national institutions.

When TFG seized control of conflict zones in 2006 in the South of Somalia from the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), one of the radical groups, which splintered away from it was Al-Shabaab, which has been battling with the TFG and AMISOM for regional control.

Since 2012 Somalia has reformed as Federal Government of Somalia.  It is the first permanent central government since the civil war.

The Africa Union doesn’t recognise Somaliland, whose capital city is Hargeisa.

Degree Programmes

Colloquial Somali (Routledge, 2015)

SOAS Language Centre





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